For 18 months, Ambika Devi (70) of Edayarpalayam could not meet her son K Suresh (50) although they lived just 2.5 kilometres away. Suresh, who is completely paralysed below the neck after suffering a stroke two decades ago, cannot travel anywhere without help.
“We have difficulty lifting and placing him into any vehicle. Besides, I need at least a couple of persons to help me out,” his wife Jaishree said.
For the past several years, Ambika Devi managed to visit her son as it was more convenient for her. But, the septuagenarian has been unable to do so of late.
Thanks to Sarathi – Mobility Redefined, Suresh could finally meet his mother a few days ago.
Started by J Swarnalatha and Anand Selvaraj, the taxi service operates specially-designed vehicles to transport people with disability for a reasonable fare. The idea came to managing trustee of the NGO Swarnalatha a year ago when she had a bitter experience with the taxi attached to a leading cab aggregator.
“A woman of my age was the only person to accompany me and she could not lift me into the car. The driver not only refused to lend a helping hand but also said that he would not take my wheelchair in,” she added. Swarnalatha, who is affected by primary progressive multiple sclerosis, is dependent on a wheelchair for most of her activities, while Anand Selvaraj (38) is also differently abled. After realising the difficulty faced by differently abled persons, they decided to do something about it.
“Apart from the aged, most persons affected by neuromuscular disorder also suffer incontinence. While some people avail the services of an ambulance to go out or reach the hospital, it is neitheralways convenient nor affordable. There is also some stigma attached to travelling in an ambulance as it is the not the primary purpose of that vehicle. So, we designed a special van that could operate as a taxi,” said, Anand.
A mini passenger carrier van was purchased for Rs 10 lakh and the NGO spent an additional Rs 7 lakh received from sponsors to customise the interiors to suit persons with all forms of disability. A Coimbatore-based vehicle interior designing firm got the work done in October last year. Sarathi service is offered at Rs 300 an hour within Coimbatore with the inclusion of five free km. The NGO charges Rs 18 for every additional km. For other destinations, it is around Rs 4,500 a day.
- Maximum speed 80 km/hour
- Foldable ramp to board wheelchair-bound persons
- Restrain system to lock the wheelchair to the vehicle
- Sofa-cum-cot and chairs for companions
- Up to six persons can travel in the van
- Small water tank and chemical toilet with swivel feature
- LED television with DVD and MP3 player
- Air conditioned and has an electric kettle